Sunday, August 1, 2010

safe and sound

Traffic on Sunday evenings tends to pick up, as cars bulging with camping supplies drain back into the lower mainland.
We do our camping in Spring and Fall, pre and post mosquito. Granted, we have had to break ice in our wash basin with a fist in the morning, but the bone deep heat from the fire, is truly welcome in the chill and damp.
We return like migrating ducks to the same lake each year. Over time, bug kill has removed tree after tree, until at last, it feels like we are camping on the face of the moon.
Tenting suits our budget, but two years ago we decided to live it up, and rented a mini-van with stow away seats so that we could sleep off the ground, safe and sound. It seemed like such an inspired idea at the time.
I'm not afraid of the dark. I've always felt a certain safety as blackness descends like a curtain. The old, "if I can't see it, it can't see me" myth seems a comfort.
Our first night there, I was the last to make that lonely wander to the outhouse.
Getting ready for bed can feel like standing at the bottom of a steep hill, and I realized how tired I was.
The temperature was quickly dropping and the air becoming damp. I had no desire to sit pondering life in a drafty outhouse, and was just reaching for the latch to exit when I heard it.
A sniff.
And then another sniff.
I called my husband's name and heard a twig snap as though something had sprung away in surprise.
I called his name again.
I shouted.
Bears and cougars have been seen in that area.
I drew in a deep breath and screamed.
Now, I felt truly frightened. If he couldn't hear me from his soundproof bunker, I was completely on my own. Surely he'll wonder what's taking so long and come for me, I thought, but the minutes ticked slowly by.
A chill settled over me and a great weariness. Just getting away for a few days can leave me feeling like I've been shot out of a cannon, but this was a different kind of tiredness. Everything that seemed wrong in my life, in my marriage, in my soul, threatened to overwhelm me and I began to cry softly.
Another sniff and a rustle from outside were my only company.
I heard the van door slide open and my husband called out. "Are you alright?" "No!!!" I shouted back. The van door slammed shut. "Finally," I thought bitterly, but no husband materialized outside the door to escort me to safety.
He did of course, eventually come to the rescue, but I was no grateful damsel in distress. I made several vows to myself between teeth clenched to stop the shivering, that involved camping, mini-vans, and husbands, but by morning I had started to defrost.
So much for safe and sound.
That van wasn't safe, and sound was the reason.

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